Sun. Nov 29th, 2020

7.12.2019 The Ocean, Leprous, Soilwork & Amorphis @ Jäähalli, Helsinki

A bit over a year after their first headlining show at Helsinki’s Jäähalli, AMORPHIS comes back for more with an impressive line-up of international bands to support them. It is worth mentioning that 2020 will be the 30th anniversary of AMORPHIS and that their latest studio effort “Queen of Time” recently received gold album status in their home country. This is quite an achievement for a non-commercial metal band in the Spotify era and gives you a good idea of their reputation and popularity. Regardless of the harsh weather and the long evening program, the crowd started slowly filling the venue for the first opening band.

THE OCEAN COLLECTIVE were the ones in charge of breaking the silence and delivered a solid thirty-minute set, featuring mostly songs from their last two studio albums “Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic” and “Pelagial”. I must admit I wasn’t very familiar with their music beforehand, but they left a good impression on me due to their energetic performance on stage and great musicianship. This German five-piece ensemble’s style combines elements of progressive and sludge metal, very experimental and rule-bending. The combination of clean and harsh vocals, jazzy and extreme twists keeps you in a constant state of anticipation because you don’t really know where they are heading with their complex songs.

The Norwegian sensation LEPROUS is by now a very well-known act internationally and they are very popular in Finland too. As expected, the set had an emphasis on their most recent release “Pitfalls”. With tracks like “Below”, “I lose Hope” and “Alleviate”, they showed their evolution from more traditional prog roots into a highly sophisticated form of pop, without losing their trademark sound. The band seems a bit stiff playing these new songs, and for the audience, it was maybe a bit harder to follow the beat and sing along. I love “Pitfalls”, but maybe this new material doesn’t translate so well live, or maybe it is still too fresh.

It’s a different story when they go back to “Malina” with songs like “From the Flame” and “Stuck”, where you could feel a completely different energy in the crowd and also in their performance. I was very curious to hear Einar Solberg’s operatic vocals live and I have to say he absolutely nails it, reaching extremely high notes effortlessly. The addition of a live cello adds elegance and drama to their performance, as they revisit their back catalogue with gems like “The Cloak” and “The Price”. But the ultimate climax is the psychedelic eleven-minute masterpiece entitled “The Sky is Red”, which leaves me in a deep state of trance.

In contrast with the elegance and sophistication of the previous band, SOILWORK’s performance is all about energy and guts. The Swedes are received as heroes by their neighbors (I guess the rivalry only applies to ice-hockey) and right from the beginning of their set, the audience shows their love for them. “Verkligheten” is on my top ten list of albums released this year so I was very excited to see them perform the new material. Tracks like “Arrival”, “Full Moon Shoals” and “The Nurturing Glance” are great examples of party-rock infused melodeath, full of hooks and groove. Classics like “Nerve” and “Stabbing the Drama” helped to keep the energy flowing.

Charismatic front-man Björn “Speed” Strid makes sure to remind everyone of the right time to start a moshpit, which was the case with most of the tracks taken from “The Living Infinite”, such as “Drowning with Silence”, “Tongue” and “Rise Above Sentiment”. Another of the highlights of their sixty-minute set was “The Ride Majestic”, a dynamic rollercoaster of sharp riffing and gear shifts, synthesizing the best assets of the band in a nutshell. After a few jokes about the after-effects of the Finnish Independence Day celebrations on the audience, they closed their set with the catchy and cinematic “Stålfågel”, leaving the stage in the midst of a great ovation.

When AMORPHIS came to the stage the floor was pretty much packed. It’s hard to believe that this is the fifth time I have seen them during the “Queen of Time Tour”, but they always manage to add something new and surprise me. In addition to a few changes in the setlist, they added loads of pyro and explosions during some of their most iconic tracks. The great acclaim received by their latest studio album allows them to focus most of their show on it, including radio-friendly songs such as “The Bee”, “Wrong Direction” and “The Golden Elk”, but also heavier deep tracks like “Daughter of Hate”, “Pyres on the Coast” and the epic “Heart of the Giant”.

Because the band is soon commemorating their 30th anniversary, they also look back at their roots and deliver two classics from the celebrated “Tales From The Thousand Lakes”: “Into Hiding” and “Black Winter Day”, as well as tracks from the Pasi Koskinen era such as “My Kantele” and the bouncy “Against Widows”. With thirteen excellent studio albums and a music style that has evolved so much throughout the years, it is really hard to please everyone with the setlist, but they manage to reach a balance between old and new, melodic and heavy, folky and modern. I like how they add new twists to the old songs, especially the keyboard arrangements by Santeri Kallio.

From the current era of the band, they deliver fan-favorites such as “Bad Blood”, “Silver Bride”, “Sampo” and the perfect closer “House of Sleep”, also making sure to include a treat for the die-hard fans like “The Four Wise Ones”. Tomi Joutsen must be one of my favorite singers when it comes to switch from growls to clean vocals, as he excels at both with great confidence. I think he deserves more recognition for bringing the band to a whole new level after difficult times. The rest of the band is also in great shape and their performance is flawless, showing how all the hard-touring has helped them to become a world-class metal act.

Once more, AMORPHIS delivered a great evening full of catchy hooks, heavy riffing and complex time signatures. The guest bands added a lot to the overall experience, the unexpected in the case of THE OCEAN, the fanciness of LEPROUS and the rawness of SOILWORK. I’m glad to live in a world where thousands of people gather to enjoy such a wide and unlikely combination of elements at the same place. It is hard to believe that three decades into their career, AMORPHIS can still surprise us and indulge us with a fresh show that puts a smile on your face. The future certainly looks very promising for one of Finland’s metal institutions.

Article written by David Araneda
Photos by Laureline Tilkin

SETLIST

  1. The Bee
  2. Heart of the Giant
  3. Bad Blood
  4. The Four Wise Ones
  5. Into Hiding
  6. Sampo
  7. Wrong Direction
  8. Daughter of Hate
  9. Against Widows
  10. My Kantele
  11. The Golden Elk
  12. Pyres on the Coast
  13. Silver Bride
  14. Black Winter Day
  15. House of Sleep

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